Timing belt. That’s the keyword. Almost every one who owns a car knows what it is. I know what it is. You know what it is. A mechanic knows what it is. Even a 10 years old sometimes knows what it is. But, hey, it’s still the reason my car died.
Belinda, Renault Clio 2
1999 – 2017
“Gee, I could have sworn I changed the timing belt”
R. I. P.
Such a rookie mistake, I could bang my head against the wall! Small flashback. Yesterday evening…
Me to my best friend, over the phone: “Hey, tomorrow is my last business car trip before I’m done with my job. You’ll see my car is gonna break down on the way like it did the last time I was done with a job. Ha-ha!”
So I was driving this morning, going to our company’s headquarters with my colleague. Everything was fine. Sun was out, we were not late for once when we started driving up the mountain. One lace. Two laces. The car was going strong climbing bravely those mountains it climbed countless times for two years. Then I suddenly felt the gas pedal getting weak under my foot. Uh-oh. Pushing again. “Tac-tac-tac-tac” in the engine. Uh-oh. The car starting to slow down. Shit.
This brave little car, my beloved little Renault Clio named Belinda, found the strength in her (yes, it’s a she) to climb far enough so we wouldn’t sit just after the lace, where upcoming cars and trucks wouldn’t see us. It was truly a dangerous place for a car to break down, but we were just high enough so drivers would have time to see us and give way. When the car stopped, every signs on the board turned red. Yep, I didn’t even need to try to start it again.
That’s when I started laughing.
Weird reaction, I know. But I swear that was not the first time it was happening to me. My previous car, Yata (you will always have a special place in my heart), broke down in almost the same way, when I was done with my last summer job and about to start my journalist first contract. When I was done working in Lozère, I also had a huge problem with my car (can’t remember what exactly, just how expensive it was). And now this. Really, I must have been taunting the karma the day before with my stupid joke over the phone.
Anyway. I checked the engine. The coolant level was awfully low, even though MY CAR WAS JUST OUT OF THE GARAGE DAMN IT. I thought first that was the problem. I got back to the car, asked my colleague to attach her belt as I did (short note here: if your car is down in an unsafe place, keep your belt fasten and if you can, use your engine break instead of your hand brake. The shock in case of a hit will be less important). And we waited for the tow truck. For an hour. My colleague had reception on her phone (of course I didn’t because we were in the mountain and that would be too easy now, wouldn’t it?) and texting the other colleagues at both my and the headquarters offices. They thought it was a joke. Really? On my last trip, my car breaks down? Yep. That’s what happens on my last days. Always.
The tow truck dropped us at the closest garage and THANKS GOD it was a Renault garage. They know my car model and they are less likely to try to screw you around (my different garage experiences would be too long to explain, but that’s how it had worked for me so far)(but basically, Yata died because of an awful, dishonest garage).
Mechanic: “We don’t have time to check it today. May be tomorrow, I don’t know.”
Me, still with my I’m-a-lunatic smile: “It’s okay, really, check it anytime you want. I’m really in no hurry”. (Under my breath): “I’m in no hurry to know she’s dead anyway”.
The tow truck driver was super nice, he comes from the same area as I, so we had a nice chat and he was so kind to drive us to the small village train station on his way.
At the train station: “I swear I’m already done with this day. I don’t care, the first train coming up is the one we’re taking”.
Luckily enough, it was the train to where the headquarters are.
So we arrived heroically at… 11.30 AM. Instead of 9. I did no work at all (I had several subjects to discuss on this last day). And got a phone call around 3 PM.
Mechanic over the phone: “Miss? Yes I got the time to check your car.”
Well that was awfully quick. I feel like it’s not a good sign.
“I just needed to turn the key. The noise is no good, I’d say it’s the timing belt.”
Me: “Wait, you think it’s the timing belt or you know it’s the timing belt?”
“Oh no, with a noise like that, I know. We could open it up if you want (a.k.a.: you would pay for us opening it) but I swear that’s what it is.”
I trusted the man on his word, and let me tell you why. I take good care of my car. I’m seriously better at mechanics than most guys I know giving all the car problems I got. I know how and when to check the liquids and refill it, I change a tire with my eyes closed, same with the lights or the fuses, I know how to recharge or change a battery, I know how to change a fucking broken electric window BY MYSELF, damn it. But I’m no mechanic. And a timing belt is not something you can see by just opening the hood. So I maaaaay remember a mechanic telling me to think about changing the timing belt the next time I get my car checked up. That was for the 100 000 km check up. And I maaaaay have thought that I did change it at some point. So here we are, with a broken car with 130 000 km, and me thinking “Gee, I could have sworn I did change the timing belt”.
So here is a list of the people I blame for the death of my car:
- Every mechanic that got a look at my car since that 100 000 km check up. Would it have killed you to tell me again?
- Every person that borrowed my car since that 100 000 km check up. I could have used those extra kilometers to… I don’t know… THINK about changing the timing belt.
- The mountain. I’m sure if it wouldn’t have been there, the timing belt would have held on. It could have sent me a sign, SOMETHING, before dying.
- The karma. Really, I can’t even make jokes now? Why do you take it so literally?
- But mostly, and more seriously, I only blame myself. Since I live in a city I don’t use my car so often and I got sloppy. I may have told mechanics that I did change the timing belt even though I wasn’t sure. It would have taken me 5 minutes to check the car bills I had. I would have seen that there were no timing belt (yeah I checked this evening, there definitely wasn’t) and I could have told them to check just in case. But I didn’t.
So… What do you do when you grieve over your dead car? You plan in your train ride back what you’re gonna eat for dinner. Something comforting. Something with A LOT of cheese (yeah, I’m French, cheese is my reason to live). Something easy to prepare. And, whatever it is, it will go down with rosé wine. So here we go…
Recipe: Goat cheese and spinach croque-monsieur
Ingredients for 4 croque-monsieurs:
- 8 slices of bread
- 4 slices of ham
- Fresh goat cheese (no quantity, just A LOT)
- Fresh spinach leaves
- Salt, pepper
- Spread goat cheese on every slice of bread. Keep it thick, but careful to not put some outside of the bread. Season with salt and pepper.
- Put a ham slice on top of 4 bread slices. Keep the ham inside of the bread. Spread a little bit of mustard on top of it.
- Place the goat cheese slices on the ham/goatcheese slices. Close the bread so the cheese or ham won’t spread out. Place the sandwiches in the toaster.
- Once the sandwiches are toasted, open them and place the spinach leaves in the middle.
- Cut in the middle to make two triangles.
- (Optional) Drink a glass of rosé wine and call your dad to explain that you broke a car AGAIN.